Ga-Rei -Zero-

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Story

Ga-Rei: Zero’s beginning works like an exhilarating kick in the nuts. It comes out of nowhere, knocks our breath out, and then leave us just as suddenly to gather our whirling thoughts. In it, a team of special armed forces are trying to contain an outbreak of supernatural beings in the city. As their members fall one by one, they soon realise someone they once thought a friend has turned against them. It’s worth elaborating on how fantastic that opening is and how skilfully it introduces us to a complex concept of demons and demon hunters while neatly covering the main characters, because that is as sophisticated as the show gets. Two episodes later, the story doubles back to describe a tepid tale of friendship betrayed by circumstance that never quite measures up.

In the style of Berserk and Gungrave, Ga-Rei: Zero concerns a spiralling tragedy of two individuals who form a profound friendship that sadly cannot last, and how one of them becomes the enemy. Unlike Berserk and Gungrave, it attempts to depict this in half their running time, which has some important consequences for the plot. Primarily, the show manages only fifty percent of the intensity. In such revenge plots, the build-up to the unlikely enmity is what makes the rest matter. Not only must we care deeply about both characters, but we must feel convinced that their eventual antagonism is as natural as their initial friendship. Ga-Rei: Zero either has not got the required time to get us that involved or the creators did not have the talent to think up something interesting for the middle.

The show essentially exploits clichés to hammer home the fact that the protagonists, Kagura Tsuchimiya and Yomi Isayama, are TOTALLY BEST FRIENDS, LOOK THEY EVEN KISS LIKE LESBIANS, THAT IS HOW BESTEST FRIENDS THEY ARE! Much of the vital setting up of the friendship features them sharing baths, teasing each other during work, and even an entire episode of Kagura trying to set Yomi up with a lover. A lot of this, rather than proving insightful glimmers of joy in their staid existence as demon hunters, actually feels more like filler. We get mixed in with that the straightforward tale of a powerful family of demon hunters who hate the adopted Yomi and wish to stop her inheriting the position of head of the house. Finally, when the reason for Kogura’s and Yomi’s split becomes apparent, it turns out to hinge as much on silly, avoidable misunderstandings and some supernatural mumbo-jumbo as misfortune. Of course, there are Yomi’s evil relatives weaving nefarious plots, but some of the characters’ lack of common sense constitutes half the problem.

As for the backdrop of demon infestations and demon hunting, it feels superfluous. The mythology behind the demons’ existence never becomes a significant part of the story. The reason for that is that Ga-Rei: Zero is a prequel to the manga, Ga-Rei, and as such assumes the audience knows all the relevant details. For anyone unfamiliar with the manga, like myself, the omission will be understandable but nevertheless detracting.


Animation

Ga-Rei: Zero uses its budget to exciting effect during action sequences, although the memorable ones occur at too low a frequency to elevate this to the top echelons of animated works. Otherwise, the animation will largely fail to leap out and shriek demands of admiration at the audience. For a show aiming at constant ominousness, I find the milieu surprisingly tame. Splashes of blood here, a contorted demonic face there, and plenty of dark spaces which have little to do with well-placed shadow and more to do with the gloomy colour palette.


Sound

We get cinematic orchestral compositions for tense sequences and softer, nondescript ditties for personal pauses. Generic j-pop songs bookend the episodes. Anyone who remembers Ga-Rei: Zero’s token soundtrack by the end most likely paid no attention to the other, more interesting things on offer.


Characters

There are one or two noteworthy facets to the protagonists: I like Kagura’s contrasting shyness and super-powerful abilities while Yomi tries to smile through all adversity, leaving us to wonder what churns beneath her facade. Beyond that, they’re wholly unremarkable.

The problem is that the show has little room to develop them beyond the obvious using scenes that feel decidedly perfunctory. Setting aside that their friendship develops in leaps of cliché, their personalities leave no lasting imprint in our hearts. Consider the intense feelings the ingenious Griffith (Berserk) or brutally ambitious Harry McDowel (Gungrave) evoke - Yomi’s tormented teen performance, in anticlimactic contrast, evokes only pity and a vague frustration as she hurtles from one bad, emotional decision to another.

Ga-Rei: Zero also leaves its secondary cast in limbo. Some have moments of sheer irrationality not befitting their profession and life-long training as demon hunters, mainly so the plot has a reason to deliver a tragedy. But most don’t even get that.


Overall

Ga-Rei: Zero shares a setup and cluster of themes with shows like Berserk and Gungrave but executes them to a less successful degree. What it lacks are complex characters to suck us into its emotional storm. Kagura and Yomi are too predictable to deliver the wavering friendship dynamic required to anchor this kind of plot, and portrayals of their relationship often resort to superficialities. Nevertheless, with commendable visuals providing one or two highlights, and an easy-to-digest narrative, this is an effective marketing ploy for the manga. Those who like what they see here may just check out the literary version.

6/10 story
7.5/10 animation
6/10 sound
6/10 characters
6/10 overall
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Secret Santa 2015 review 

Plot:

Ga-Rei Zero is mainly about two girls and their friendship that will inevitably fall apart. Their world is a place where ghosties haunt and attack people and it is the Vanquishers' duty to keep people safe from them. Yomi, the adopted daughter of the Isayama family takes care of Kagura, the heir of one of those Vanquisher families, after her mother dies.

Most of the story takes place in a flashback. It takes a while for it to get to the real action, and there are a lot of filler scenes. It all built up pretty nicely to the present. The plot has a handful of cliches, such as family inheritance problems, mysterious little boy antagonist, and school girls fighting demons... but that's expected in a 12 episode show.

Animation:

The animation is a little awkward at some points, but it's pretty sound otherwise. The fanservice is place wierdly at times, but it's not too obnoxious. The character designs are very nice.

The actions scenes were average at best. Nothing amazing.

Sound:

The soundtrack was okay, nothing really outstanding. Full of pianos. The ending's really nice though. The voice acting is good.

Characters:

It seemed like the main characters were gonna be Mr. I Need Revenge and his sidekick Ms. Stoic, but no, as you'll find out in the first episode.

Yomi and Kagura are practically the only ones who get any backstory at all. A lot of secondary characters got little to no screen time to fill up the episodes with Yomi x Kagura fluff, which was dissapointing.

Overall:

I expected more gore, as in Higurashi levels of gore, but what I got was a sappy friendship with a bit of blood and mystery as side dishes. This might be an interesting anime if you're into family drama and stuff, but to be honest, nothing really stood out to me except for Yomi.

5.5/10 story
6.5/10 animation
7/10 sound
7/10 characters
6.5/10 overall
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Story

Ga Rei: Zero’s high octane first episode introduces us to a troupe of interesting characters, filled with spirited action, a dark storyline and… death. Within twenty-two minutes, it offers a plot twist to shock the viewer.  As a result, the quick pacing is disorienting, foreshadowing a show in love with combat and slacking on story.

Ga Rei: Zero is anything but that. From episode two, the narrative takes a decidedly steady stride after forcing our heads underwater. Letting us come up for air, its easy to take in the world. Set in an alternate version of Japan, the government is engaged in a secret war with the paranormal enlisting the help of exorcists. Being from a family of exorcists herself, Kagura is pulled into the struggle of ‘good vs. evil’. Now in any other anime this set up would be an excuse for large-scale battles between spirits and their hunters. But Ga Rei: Zero uses it as a frame to focus on the associations of its characters.

Centering on the relationship of the dark-haired Yomi and the younger Kagura, the story seems more slice of life than science fiction, as the two grow to love one another as sisters. At times it appears like the plot is having an identity crisis, focusing on the playful exchanges of the pair before shifting gears into a supernatural skirmish. While jarring at first blush, the writers took effort to weave the two strands together, carefully paving the heroine’s path to a momentous climax.  

Animation

Midnight hues evoke a gloom that haunts over the cast. Colors are appropriately muted during moments of tension. These scenes feel almost like watercolors at moments, fluorescent lighting casting a thin haze over the crisp drawings. Serving as the perfect stage, these set pieces host seamless animation, though the action can seem a bit stiff at times when slow motion is used. The only major detractor is the obtrusive CGI, a blending of cell shading and realistic textures, which feels out of place. A glaring example is the gargantuan Kasha beast in the first episode. Its flames look plastic and the edges of grey skin are jagged from poor aliasing.

Sound

The brisk opening "Paradise Lost" by Minori Chihara has a tinge of pessimism while reflecting on the ties of love. It’s pleasant to the ear while tied to the motifs of the Ga Rei: Zero, which is what every OP should do. The ending theme "Yume no Ashioto ga Kikoeru" by Mizuhara Kaoru is filled with melancholy, sober when compared to the Chihara’s offering. Both pieces are excellent and are accompanied by an appropriate soundtrack that has a similar sound. The voice acting is done well, Kagura’s innocence perfectly captured while Yomi’s expressions are handled expertly from teasing to tender. Nothing really stands out from the supporting cast except for Mitogawa, the villain, whose innocent tone is both vacant and eerie.

Characters

Ga Rei: Zero offers the typical shounen tango of heroes and baddies as a young heroine comes to term with the assertive grip of ‘destiny’. Kagura questions if it’s acceptable to kill the possessed corpses who still look human. The protagonist’s vacillation is the girl’s tragic flaw that inevitably leads her to the footsteps of the stunning conclusion. Admirably maturing Kagura through the twelve episodes from vulnerability to independence, Ga Rei: Zero executes an effective coming of age tale.

Yomi acts as a foil to Kagura’s growth. As the story progresses, she becomes less and less grounded in reality. It’s disheartening to watch her mentally unravel, her transformation is perversely beautiful as the once a supportive guide becomes the antagonists.

Sadly, the supporting characters are an expendable commodity in this production. The audience is introduced to a whole platoon of faces, from those in the Minstry of Defense, to those in the Agency. The program has no shame, liberally murdering likable persona throughout the installments.

Overall

Taking a simple formula of mixing Ghostbusters, Men In Black, and a bit of high school drama, Ga Rei became a wildly popular manga in Japan. Ga Rei: Zero serves as a prequel to the drawn word, focusing on the relationship of Kagura and her adoptive sister Yomi. Narratives of this nature raise a few questions: Is it accessible to those who are not familiar with franchise? If so, does the program offer anything to those foreign to the series?

The answer to both is an emphatic yes. Ga Rei: Zero serves a powerful story, wrought with impact, memorable characters and excellent production value. Not only does it reinforce the happenings of the main storyline, it seduces you into the dark embrace of Kagura’s world, imploring that you give the manga at least a passing glance.

8.5/10 story
8.5/10 animation
9/10 sound
8.4/10 characters
8.7/10 overall
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Very good start, throughout the series the main theme focused is friendship, which is nice but it becomes repetitive and boring.

Story

As I said before it starts off really good, but after the first 3 episodes or so I lost all interest because:

  • Most of the series focuses on friendship and the friendship between Kagura and Yomi is forced and it takes up too much of the screen time, it honestly feels like fillers.
  • Only 2 characters are potrayed alone, so when they killed off most of the others, I really didnt care because I didnt get a sense of what their purpose was in the anime.
  • The battles are boring (really stylish effects are used and the anime keeps a grim atmosphere but the fights are not well done, its just a bunch of simple slashes)
  • A lot of wasted scenes, all of which were uncecessay to the plot.
  • It doesnt even feel like it was finished I mean they didnt even get that butterfly guy caused all of the mess.

A few things I'd like to point out to, I like the idea of being an exorist one of them truns to the dark side, that idea was neat.

Schools girls fighting demons!?!?!? (I really don't need to say much there)

As far as friendship goes I don't think I would bathe or kiss my frisnds as Kagura and Yomi did.

Animation

Very dark and atmospheric, it was very pleasing to watch, problem was during the fights they would stop and pause and cry out their feelings trying to force some emotion into the moment, I just skipped past that before I fell asleep.

In terms of the battles they were very slow and progressive, it could have been done much better.

Character design again was very simple and basic nothing to facinating to look at.

Sound

I did like some of the ghostly and haunting soundtracks this anime had, unfortunately I hated the opening and ending themes.

Voice acting ws good no complaints there.

Characters

Only 2 characters were focused alone adn eventually I lost interest in them as well. Funniest was when they tried to kill off some of the secondary characters they tried to make the death look sad eg. Kagura's father he didnt get much screen time, I didnt care whether he lived or died, if they had foucsed him a bit more, give some more insight into him I would've cared.

Overall

Meh, just another forgettable anime, I do have an issue with the first episode though, the characters in those yellow suits, I thoought they were the main characters sice they were focused a lot and then they were killed off, my opinion, the anime would have probably been better  if they were the progatanists instead.

What I really dont like is anime that start off so well and then trun out into utter mess, this is another example of one of those anime.

5/10 story
7/10 animation
7/10 sound
4/10 characters
5.5/10 overall
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Right, it's confession time for me. If you have been reading my reviews than you may have noticed that I tend to rip the anime a new one. There is a reason for this though and it has to do with the fact that I can't turn my brain off when watching anime. I can't ignore the stupid shown in the anime and this is a problem as most anime are very stupid indeed.

In this case I'm not talking about a 90 pound girl catching a multi-ton cruise missile and throwing it back. Yes, it is stupid but it is a stupid that I'll allow. It's anime. Things like this are normal here and I'm pretty much fine with it. It annoys me to be sure but I will not rant about it.

So, having explained this lets rip into this anime shall we? Just a heads up: There will most probably be spoilers. The more I hate an anime the more spoilers there will be.

ART: Overall very good quality. Characters are easily identifiable and all the action is easy to follow. If CGI was used then I didn't notice it, as it should be.

SOUND: Decent enough I suppose. I rarely pay attention to the music and when I do it is because it is either horrible or very good. I have really no complaints. Voice acting is excellent.

CHARACTERS: Main character is Kagura. She is from a long line of excorcists and, dispite her young age, already works for the government. She has a strong sense of responsebility and is like a sister to Yomi.

Yomi is, like Kagura, from a long line of excorcists and lives with Kagura. She uses a katana to destroy evil spirits. Yomi consisers Kagura to be her best friend.

STORY: Evil spirits do exist and the government has a special department dedicated to destroying them. For this they work closely with a number of families that are known for producing powerful excorcists. Kagura and Yomi are both heiresses to such clans. Their power means that they have little choice regarding their future but they have little choice. Letting the spirits have their way is not an option.

RANT: The start of the anime immediatly knows what you are in for as the initial characters you meet are pretty interesting and badass. They are also dead by the end. From here on we go back a few years and focus our attention on Kagura and Yomi.

This is also where the problems start for me as the killer from the first episode is Yomi. Ga-Rei-Zero is a prequal to the manga so if you are familiar with that series then you know the ultimate fate of Yomi. While I was NOT familiar with that series I now know how this series will end. It will end with Yomi going dark and betraying everything she stood for so all that remains is the journey.

To be fair, I really liked the story of Yomi and Kagura but you are looking for the signs of the darkside at every moment. As a prequal story it is pretty much perfect as you get to see what Yomi was and what she was to Kagura.

If you have and like the main series then this is a series to have. If this is your first encounter with the series then you may be in for a few surprises. It is worth the effort though as the plusses outweigh the minusses.

6/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
6/10 characters
6.5/10 overall
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